A merry dance of Catholic social doctrine, permaculture, distributism, and other odd answers to pressing questions

Vol. I, No. 11

Chesterton: A real vote or a lord's jest?

2008 Sep 20, 05:37 Sat tags:


Good grief. Another lengthy hiatus. As usual, I beg your forgiveness.

I've gotten side-tracked for this issue by our upcoming American presidential election. I'm afraid our two-party system strikes me as having rather more similarities than differences these days. Apparently, Chesterton saw the same problem back in 1912.

I dug up this Chesterton quote because I was writing a blog on my personal site about whether McCain was the "moral choice" because Obama is "more" pro-abortion. Somehow, the piece doesn't quite seem to fit with Penny Justice, but if you're interested:


As I argue there, a "partial" support for abortion is actually much more frightening than being totally and consistently pro-abortion. In fact, this position should frighten most pro-abortionists; their position is only palatable to millions of ordinary people because they claim that a fetus really isn't a baby. That's horrid, yes, but not as bad as saying that fetuses are babies -- and some can still be killed.

Bill Powell, Editor

SELECTION: Chesterton

from "The Voter and the Two Voices"

And as for the fanatical conflict in party politics, I wish there was more of it. The real danger of the two parties with their two policies is that they unduly limit the outlook of the ordinary citizen. They make him barren instead of creative, because he is never allowed to do anything except prefer one existing policy to another. We have not got real Democracy when the decision depends upon the people. We shall have real Democracy when the problem depends upon the people. The ordinary man will decide not only how he will vote, but what he is going to vote about....

So that the situation comes to this: The democracy has a right to answer questions, but it has no right to ask them. It is still the political aristocracy that asks the questions. And we shall not be unreasonably cynical if we suppose that the political aristocracy will always be rather careful what questions it asks. And if the dangerous comfort and self-flattery of modern England continues much longer there will be less democratic value in an English election than in a Roman saturnalia of slaves. For the powerful class will choose two courses of action, both of them safe for itself, and then give the democracy the gratification of taking one course or the other. The lord will take two things so much alike that he would not mind choosing from them blindfold--and then for a great jest he will allow the slaves to choose.


"The Voter and the Two Voices", from A Miscellany of Men Available for free at: http://www.cse.dmu.ac.uk/~mward/gkc/books/misc.txt

Also see: G. K. Chesterton's Works on the Web

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